Why do people disclose false information and what can we do to prevent this spread? These are some of the topics that Europe has been addressing in various communications that aim to clarify what is being done to combat misinformation.
After WHO (the World Health Organization, acronym in English), admitted that the misinformation is spreading faster than the coronavirus, and that it is already a pandemic of planetary proportions, the European Parliament warns that this level of information false hinder efforts to combat the pandemic.
Data released by ComunicaoEuropeia indicate that an investigation by the Global Disinformation Index accounts for more than 76 million euros per year the amount earned in advertising by websites dedicated to fake news, and Google is responsible for most of the published advertisements.
The main online platforms are already taking action to limit the scope of fake news covering information that the virus has spread through bat soup, or even reports from EU countries that are fighting each other for the supply of an increasingly reduced number of medical equipment. But Europe also focuses on how each citizen can recognize misinformation and help prevent it from spreading.
What is Europe doing to combat disinformation?
A European Union website on Europe's response to the virus has been created, with links to the authorities, and will soon include special information to dismantle common myths linked to the outbreak. Some of them are already detailed on the EU-supported website, oEUvsDisinfo, a European action service project.
Experts and politicians from the EU and its member states regularly hold videoconferences to discuss misinformation and share methods to inform people about risks and how to resolve them. To this is added the pressure on online platforms to act against this type of manipulation of information.
The President of the European Commission herself accepted the challenge and has already released a video showing how hands should be washed to avoid contagion.
In a pedagogical attitude, the European Parliament today released a communication explaining that misinformation is really dangerous because it spreads fear. "At a time when many people are concerned and receiving shocking news, it is more difficult to remain calm and check the facts, as necessary", the information adds, explaining that recently this type of information has led parents not to vaccinate their children,. paving the way for an explosion of new measles cases.
To prevent the spread of fake news, people need to be careful to share news by first verifying that the source is reliable, also helping to report such shares on the social media platform where they found it. And they can also help people who share it to be more attentive. "Talk to the person who spread it: it probably wasn't intentional," says Parliament. Researchers say the best way to convince people who believe in conspiracy theories is to show empathy, appeal to the person's critical thinking and avoid ridiculing them.